Perhaps the best hitter of all-time, Ted Williams was also a United States marine who served his country in two wars and was quite the ladies’ man back in the day. He lived a colorful, long life and left quite a legacy on and off the field. “Best” lists are always subjective, but below are arguably the top ten Ted Williams cards from his playing career.
A first ballot Hall of Famer and a member of the Major League Baseball All-Time team, Williams literally wrote the bookon hitting. His .406 average in 1941 still drops the jaws of fans who understand how difficult the task really is.
Demand for his baseball cards continues to be strong more than five decades after his last game. His career spanned from the late 1930s until weeks before John F. Kennedy’s election as president, giving us a deep checklist of Williams cards, even with a dearth of issues during World War II and immediately afterward.
Most will not be cheap but comparing prices and seeking out the best looking cards, regardless of technical grade, is solid advice.
Click the title of each to see them for sale and auction on eBay.
- 1939 Play Ball #92– The better of the two options for a Ted Williams rookie card, it came out the same year he made his big league debut and is has a very simple look to it on the front without any writing at all. Value ranges from $500 for a poor grade to thousands for higher end examples. A PSA 9 sold for over $57,000 in August of 2013 but a nice looking ‘6’ can be yours for $2,000-2,500.
- 1939 Goudey Premium #47– This underappreciated card from his rookie season, the Goudey Premium (R303-A) has a similar design to the Play Ball edition except for the facsimile signature on the front of this one. It is less popular with collectors than the Play Ball rookie card and the only Williams card made by Goudey. It’s not easy to find, but prices seem to be much more wallet friendly considering the scarcity.
- 1941 Play Ball #68– From the year in which he hit .406, the 1941 Play Ball card is a favorite among serious collectors. The great color portrait has something to do with the popularity of this one as well.
- 1959 Fleer Ted Williams Set #68– Before the 1980’s, it was rare for one player to have their own set. Sure, there were a few sets of Babe Ruth in the 1920’s and a Jackie Robinson set in 1947 featured in loaves of bread, but Ted Williams got his in 1959 after signing an exclusive deal with Fleer. The set itself contains 80 cards but #68 featured Williams signing his contract with GM Bucky Harris, who was under contract to Topps. They fussed and this card was pulled early in the printing process. As such, you’ll pay $500 and up for a decent one.
- 1954 Bowman #66– A short printed card, the 1954 Bowman Ted Williams is one of the most memorable cards of the post-War era. Bowman had to stop printing the Williams after Topps enforced its new, exclusive arrangement with him. Featuring a portrait style photograph of the Splendid Splinter and a facsimile autograph, it is pleasing to the eye. A ’54 Bowman Williams in EX/MT condition without any major problems is usually $1,000 or a little more, but a PSA 8 will cost you $5500+.
- 1954 Wilson Franks– Coming with hot dogs, Wilson Franks cards are unnumbered and extremely rare to find. As the set itself is rare, there is not a huge demand for the cards except among advanced collectors or Williams collectors, but when they do come onto the market, they go for a mint. If you want one, and you can’t compete at the high levels, shoot for a 3-4 graded which can usually be obtained for around $3,000. A PSA 8 famously sold for more than $50,000 awhile ago.
- 1955 Topps #2– A horizontal card, this card of Williams features both a portrait and a picture of him swinging on the front as well as a facsimile autograph. This card may not be one of the most expensive cards of Teddy Ballgame on the planet, but it is certainly not cheap. It runs for about $250 in good condition, making it pricey enough to still be a reach, but affordable enough to the point where most collectors can get their hands on one if they are willing to spend some money.
- 1954 Topps #1/250– Williams actually has two cards in the 1954 set. That’s how excited Topps was to land him as their spokesman (he’s on the cover of the wax box). It’s clear Topps wanted to start its relationship with Williams off on the right foot, creating a beautiful card of a smiling Williams against a bright, yellow background for #250 and starting the set off with a waist-up shot of Williams, who has a huge grin and a bat on his shoulder. Both are as close to a work of art as you’ll find in any card set.
- 1960 Fleer #72– Coming from his last season as a big league player, the 1960 Fleer card of Ted Williams is the most affordable card from a mainstream set issued at the end of his playing days. Although it was his last season, Williams still managed to smack 29 home runs in 113 games while posting an unreal .451 OBP making it a season to remember for the Hall of Famer. You can buy a near mint example for $100-175, which is a deal considering it is Williams’ last card as an active player.
- 1957 Topps #1– Williams was the first card in three different Topps sets including this one, which is the first Topps card that’s an actual photo. It’s a great image, showing his follow through on a practice swing, beautifully lit with a ballpark background. The ’57 is truly a classic card from one of the greatest baseball card sets ever made. The big jump in prices on graded 1957 Topps Ted Williams cards comes between 7 and 8, with 7s often available for under $400 right now, a bit less than they were selling for not long ago. That makes a near mint ’57 Williams a very attractive target for value-minded collectors.